“You never tell me you love me anymore!”
There are hundreds of retorts I could use against this comment, but the one most important to my personality is, I didn’t say it very much when I asked you to become my life partner.
As a writer, I like to think I know the importance of words, especially in relationships, but for me, overusing a word in the hopes of keeping someone in my life is like building a relationship on sex. It does not work, here’s why I think that way.
One day, long, long ago when I was a paramedic on the Minneapolis General Hospital Ambulance Service, we used to transport patients with severe mobility challenges to and from various clinic appointments both at the hospital at other government-sponsored clinics. One of my favorite runs was to pick up someone I referred to as my Keller Angel (I won’t use her real name). She was a very pretty younger teenage girl who had lost her eyesight and abilities to speak and hear due to a very abusive parent. The details of her trauma are not the critical issue, how she handled the aftermath is the real story.
Now, I was young myself at the time, just barely twenty-one and in pretty good shape. I was no supermodel hunk, but I wasn’t ugly either.
When it was my rotation to work the clinics run, I was always excited to see my Keller Angel’s name on the trip sheet. I made it a point to schedule her for the first stop coming and the last stop going home so we could communicate between stops to pick up other patients if we had any on the schedule.
Now, you may ask how we communicated, well it wasn’t easy at first, but she and the staff at the clinic taught me enough to interact with her. You see, she was a student at the Helen Keller Institute in Minneapolis and lived with a lovely family who also had a Keller child who was a graduate and in college.
We communicated through touch; simple gestures that sent messages between people. Things like a tight grasp of my hand told me she had a problem or was in pain, but a soft brush of it meant she was happy to see me. She also likes to give me pointers on my aftershave lotion or cologne by either pinching her nose or touching it with one finger and smiling.
At the Keller Institute, she was taught to spell out words on the palm of someone’s hand, but I had trouble learning that one; didn’t spend enough time with her I guess. Then that one day came, the day we dread, but life goes on; her family was moving to Arizona where her father had gotten a great job. When we brought her home that last time, her mother asked me to wait a short time because my Keller Angel had something she wanted her to say to me.
My Keller Angel said, through the interpretation provided by her mother that she had never felt so loved before. She apologized for not being able to tell it to me but wanted me to realize I had helped her learn that love, true love is not in words, but is in deeds, commitments, and promises kept.
“I will always love you because you are what love means to me.” were the last words she gave me.
I had forgotten those words until recently when I was accused of not loving someone because I didn’t say enough, or do the kinds of things this person felt I should do to demonstrate my feelings. I guess I was supposed to act in a manner appropriate to the demands of my partner, rather than being myself, the original object of affection.
That may be true, at least in that person’s eyes, but then merely echoing “I love you” over and over again does nothing more than making the words, just words sans real meaning.
There is an adage; “Actions speak louder than words.” The actions of my Keller Angel spoke of a real sense of caring for someone. Because she took the time to overcome the communications challenge and expressed herself in a very non-verbal way every time we were together.
I learned that perhaps I couldn’t, or wouldn’t say I love you all the time, but if love means being there for you; never letting you down or breaking a promise, then I am saying I do love you, you just aren’t listening.